VI. The Threefold Man and the Hierarchies
2 March 1924, Dornach
In continuing our studies on karma, we are under the necessity, at the outset, of casting a glance at the manner in which karma intervenes in the evolution of man, how destiny, which intervenes with the free deeds of man, is really fashioned in its physical reflection out of the spiritual world.
To begin with, I shall have to tell you today a few things about that which is connected with the human being in as far as he lives on earth. This earthly man — during these lectures we have been studying him in regard to the various members of his being. We have distinguished in him the physical body, the ether body, the astral body, the ego organism. We can, however, by directing our gaze upon him, just as he stands before us in the physical world, perceive the membering of the human being in yet another way.
Today we intend — quite independently of what we have already been discussing — to consider a certain membering of the human being, and we shall try to build a bridge between what we discuss today and that which we already know.
If we consider the human being as he stands before us on the earth, simply according to his physical form, then this physical form has three clearly differentiated members. This differentiation is, however, not usually observed, because that which asserts itself as science nowadays really looks at things and facts in a merely superficial way. It has no sensibility for what reveals itself when things and facts are considered with a perception inwardly illumined.
We have, to begin with, the human head. Even outwardly considered, this human head shows itself as something quite different from the remainder of the human form. We need but turn our attention to the formation of the human being out of the human embryo. The first thing we can see developing in the body of the mother as human embryo is the head organization.
The whole human organization takes its start from the head, and everything else in the human being which afterwards flows into his configuration is, actually, an appendage-organ of the human embryo. As physical form, the human being is a head in the beginning. The rest are appendage-organs. And the functions which these appendage-organs assume in later life — such as breathing, circulation, nutrition — are, in the first period of the embryonic existence, activities proceeding not from within the embryo, but from without inward, out of the body of the mother, through organs which afterwards fall off, organs which are no longer present later in the human being.
The human being is, at the outset, entirely head. The rest is appendage-organ. We do not exaggerate in the following sentence: The human being is in the beginning head; the rest is, so to speak, appendage-organ. Since that which at first was appendage-organ later on grows and gains in importance for the human being, his head finally loses its sharp distinction from the rest of the organs.
But this gives only a superficial characterization of the human being. For in reality he is, also as physical form, a threefold being. All that which actually constitutes his first form — the head — remains throughout his earthly life a more or less individual member. We fail merely to recognize this; nevertheless, it is a fact.
You will say: Indeed, one ought not to divide the human being in such a way that we behead him, as it were, chop off his head. That this happens in Anthroposophy was only the belief of Professor “Blank” who reproached Anthroposophy for dividing men into head, chest organs, and limb organs. But this charge is not true; it is not at all a fact; for in what is outwardly head configuration, lies only the main outer expression of the head configuration. Man remains completely “head” throughout his whole life. The most important sense organs — the eyes, ears, the organs of smell, the organs of taste — are, to be sure, in the head, but the sense of warmth, for example, the sense of pressure, the sense of touch, are spread out over the whole human being. That is precisely because the three members of the human organism are not to be differentiated spatially, but only in such a way that the head formation mainly appears in the outwardly formed head, while in reality it permeates the entire human being. And this is true also for the rest of the members. The head is, throughout man's earthly life, in the big toe, in so far as the big toe possesses a sense of touch or a sense of warmth.
Thus we have characterized, to begin with, the one member of the human being's essential nature, that human nature which confronts us as something sensuous. In my books I have designated this organization also as the nerve-sense organism in order to characterize it more inwardly. This, then, is one member of the human being, the nerve-sense organism.
The second member of the essential nature of the human being is all that manifests in rhythmical activity. You cannot say of the nerve-sense system that it finds expression in rhythmic activity, for example, in the perception of the eye; for in that case you would have to perceive one thing at a certain moment, then another, then a third, then a fourth, and then return again to the first, and so on. In other words, there would have to be a rhythm in your sense perception. But that is not the case. Observe on the other hand the main characteristic of your breast organism. There you will find the rhythm of breathing, the rhythm of circulation, the rhythm of digestion, and so forth. There, everything is rhythm.
Rhythm, with its organs of rhythm, is the second thing to develop in the human being; and it also extends over the whole human being, though its chief external manifestation is in the organs of the breast. The whole human being, again, is a lung; yet lung and heart are localized, so to speak, in the organs so named. The whole human being, indeed, breathes; you breathe in every spot of your organism. People speak of skin respiration. Only, in the activity of the lung is respiration mainly concentrated.
The third human organism is that of the limbs — the limb organism. The limbs terminate in the breast organism. In the embryonic stage of existence, they appear as appendages. They are the latest to develop. They are, however, the organs which are chiefly connected with metabolism. The metabolic process finds its chief stimulus through the fact that these organs are put into motion, perform most of the work in the human being. We have thus characterized the three members that appear to us in the human form.
But these three members are intimately connected with the soul life of the human being. His soul life can be divided into thinking, feeling, and willing. Thinking finds its physical expression chiefly in the head. But it has its physical organism also in the entire human being, because the head exists, in the way I have just described, throughout the entire human being.
Feeling is connected with the rhythmic organism. It is a prejudice, indeed even a superstition on the part of modern science to assume that the nervous system has directly to do with feeling. The nervous system has nothing directly to do with feeling. The respiration and circulation rhythms are the organs of feeling, and the nerves only transmit the fact that we cognize our feelings, that we experience them. The feelings have their organism in the rhythmic system, but we should know nothing of our feelings if the nerves did not procure for us percepts of them. And because the nerves procure for us these percepts of our feelings, modern intellectualism creates the superstition that the nerves themselves are tin* organs of feeling. This is not the case.
But, when we consciously observe our feelings, as they arise out of our rhythmic organism, and compare them with the thoughts which an* bound to our head, to our nerve-sense organism, then — if we are able to observe at all — we shall perceive the same difference between our thoughts and our feelings that exists between our daytime thoughts which we have in waking life and our dreams. Our feelings have no greater intensity in consciousness than dreams. They only have a different form; they only make their appearance in a different way. When you dream in pictures, your consciousness lives in pictures. But these pictures, in their picture character, have the same significance — although in another form — as our feelings. Thus, we may say that we have the clearest consciousness, the most illumined consciousness in our visualizations, in our thoughts. We have a kind of dream consciousness in regard to our feelings. We only believe that we have a clear consciousness of our feelings; we have no clearer consciousness of our feelings than we have of our dreams. If on awaking from sleep we recollect our dreams and form of them wide-awake visualizations, we do not seize hold of the dream. The dream is far richer than our visualization of it afterwards. In like manner is the world of feeling infinitely richer than our mental pictures of it, which we make present to our consciousness.
And completely immersed in sleep is our willing. This willing is bound to the limb-metabolic organism, to the motor organism. All that we really know of our willing are the thoughts. I form the visualization: I shall take hold of this watch. Just try to think quite sincerely that you form the visualization: I shall take hold of this watch. Then you do take hold of it. What proceeds from your visualization, your thought, right down into the muscles and finally leads to something which again appears as a visualization — your taking hold of the watch, which is a continuation of the first visualization — what lies between the thought of the intention to act, and the thought of its fulfilment, what occurs in your organism, all these activities remain just as unconscious as your life in the deepest dreamless sleep.
We do at least dream of our feelings, but from our impulses of will we have nothing but what we have from our sleep. You may say: I have nothing at all from sleep. Well, I do not speak now from the physical standpoint; even from the physical standpoint it is, indeed, entirely senseless to say that you have nothing at all from sleep. But psychically, too, you have a great deal from your sleep. If you were never to sleep, you would never reach your ego consciousness.
You need only realize the following: When you remember the experiences you have had, then you say that you are going back in time, that from the present you go further back in time. Indeed, you imagine that it is a fact that you go further back in time. But it is not so at all. In reality you only go back to the moment when you awoke from sleep the last time. (See Figure X.) Then you have fallen asleep. What lies there between is eliminated. And then in the interval from the last time you fell asleep back to the time before the last when you woke up, memory appears again. So the matter continues on, back in time. And by looking back, you must really always insert the periods of unconsciousness. In doing so we must insert unconsciousness for one third of our life. We do not pay attention to this. But it is just as if you had a white plane with a black hole in the center. (See Figure XI.) You see the black hole, in spite of the fact that there are no forces present. Thus, in looking back in memory, in spite of the fact that it contains nothing from life's reminiscences, you see, nevertheless, the blackness — the nights, through which you have slept. There your consciousness strikes against this blackness continually, and that impels you to call yourself an I, an ego.
If this really continued on and you were to knock against nothing, you would never gain an ego consciousness. Thus we can, indeed, say that we benefit from sleep. And just as we benefit from our sleep in the ordinary earth life, do we benefit from the sleep which rules in our willing. We sleep through that which really takes place in us with every act of will. But in it there lies the true ego. Just as we receive our ego consciousness through the black void (see Figure XI), so does our ego lie in that which sleeps in us during the act of will — the ego, however, which passed through our former earth lives.
That is where karma holds sway. Karma rules in our willing. In our willing all the impulses from our preceding earth life hold sway; only, even in the waking human being, they are sunk in sleep.
Thus, when we visualize the human being as he confronts us in earth life, a threefold membering of his organism is observable: the head organism, the rhythmic organism, and the motor organism. That is a schematic division. Each member belongs in turn to the whole man. Visualizing is bound to the head organism, feeling is bound to the rhythmic organism, and willing to the motor organism. Our state while visualizing is wakefulness, while feeling is dreaming. Our state in which willing, in which the will impulses take place is sleep, even during our waking life.
Now, in the head — that is, in our visualizing — we must distinguish two things; we must discover, as it were, a more subtle membering of the head. This more subtle membering leads us to distinguish what we have as momentary visualization by virtue of our having intercourse with the world, from what we have as memory.
You go through the world, constantly forming visualizations, mental images, according to the impressions you receive from the world. But it remains possible for you to call up these impressions again out of your memory. The visualizations you form in your intercourse with the world at present are not differentiated inwardly from the visualizations aroused to life when memory becomes active. In one case they come from without, and in the other from within. It is, indeed, a naive thought to imagine that memory works in the following way: I now confront a thing or event, form a visualization, a mental picture of it; this visualization sinks down into me somewhere, into some sort of pigeon-hole, and, when later I remember, I take it again out of the pigeon-hole. There are, indeed, whole philosophies which are able to describe how the visualizations sink down beneath the threshold of consciousness, then are fished out again in the act of recollecting. These are naive concepts.
There is, of course, no such pigeon-hole in which our visualizations lie when we remember them. Nor is there any such place in us where they are moving about and whence, when we remember them, they walk up again into our head. All these things are utterly non-existent, nor is there any explanation in their favor.
The facts are rather as follows, you need only to reflect on the following: When you wish to exercise your memory, you often do not work merely with your powers of visualizing, but you bring to your aid very different means. I have seen people memorizing who exercised their power to visualize just as little as possible, but carried on vehement outer movements accompanying their speech (arm movements) again and again:
And it undulates, surges, and roars and hisses
[Und es wallet und woget und brauset
A well-known line of German poetry. (Tr.)]
Thus, people memorize in this way, and in so doing the least possible thinking occurs. And in order to add a further stimulus — And it undulates, surges, and roars and hisses — they beat their forehead with their fists. Even this happens. It is definitely a fact that the visualizations we form as we occupy ourselves with the world are as evanescent as dreams. On the other hand, what emerges out of memory are not visualizations which have sunk below into us, but something quite different. Were I to give you some notion of it, I should have to draw it thus (see Figure XII). This is, naturally, only a kind of symbolic figure. Imagine the human being as a seeing being. He sees something. I shall not describe the process more exactly; that could be done, but for the moment we do not need it. The human being sees something. It passes through his eye (see Figure XII), through the optic nerve into the organs into which the optic nerve then merges.
We have two clearly distinct members of our brain: the more external brain, the gray matter; and, beneath it, the white matter. The white matter terminates in the sense organs, the gray matter lies within it; it is far less developed than the white mass. “Gray” and “white” are, of course, only approximate terms. But even thus crudely anatomically considered, the matter is as follows: The objects make an impression on us, pass through our eyes, and on into the processes that take place in the white matter of the brain.
On the other hand, our visualizations have their organs in the gray matter (see Figure XII) which, incidentally, has quite a different cell structure. Therein our visualizations glimmer and vanish like dreams. They glimmer, because the impressions are occurring underneath.
If you were dependent upon having the mental images sink down into you, and you then had to call them up again in memory, you would remember nothing at all, you would have no memory. The fact is like this: At the present moment, let us say, I see something. The impression of it — whatever it may be — sinks into me, the white matter of the brain acting as the medium. The gray matter functions by dreaming in its turn of the impressions, making pictures of them. These are only transitory pictures; they come and go. That which remains we do not visualize at all at this moment, but that goes down into our organism. And when we remember, we look within; down there below, the impression remains.
Thus, when you see something blue, then an impression of blue sinks down into you (below, in Figure XII), here (above, in Figure XII) you form the visualization of blue. It is transitory. Then, after three days, you
observe in your brain the impression which has remained. Now, by looking inward, you visualize the blue. The first time, when you saw the blue from without, you were stimulated from outside by the blue object. The second time, when you remember, you are stimulated from within, because the blueness portrayed itself within you. In both cases, the process is the same. It is always a perception. Memory, too, is a perception. So that our day-waking consciousness is actually to be found, as it were, in the visualizing process; but, beneath the visualizing, certain processes are going on which also rise into consciousness through visualizing, namely, through the memory visualizations. Below this visualizing lies perceiving,
the actual perception, and only below this lies feeling. Thus, we can distinguish more intimately between the processes of visualizing and perceiving in our head organism, our thought organism. That which we have perceived we can then remember. But it remains, indeed, very unconscious; only in memory does it rise into consciousness. What really takes place in the human being is actually no longer experienced by him. When he perceives, he experiences the visualization. The effect of the perception penetrates him. Out of this effect he is able to awaken the memory. But then the unconscious has already begun.
In reality it is only here, in this region — where in waking-day consciousness we visualize — there only do we ourselves exist as human beings. There only are we really aware of ourselves as human beings (see Figure XIII). Where we do not reach down with our consciousness (we do not even reach the causes of our memories) there we are not aware of ourselves as human beings but are incorporated into the world. It is just as it is in the physical life. You inhale, the air you now have within yourself was a short while ago outside, it was the air of the outer atmosphere; it is now your air. After a short time, you give it back again to the world; you are one with the world. The air is now outside you, now inside you, now without, now within. You would not be a human being were you not united with the world in such a way that you possess not only that which is
present within your skin, but that by means of which you yourself are connected with the whole surrounding atmosphere. And just as you are thus connected on your physical side, so are you connected on your spiritual side — the moment you descend into the nearest sub-conscious region, the region out of which memory arises — so are you connected with that which we call the third Hierarchy, Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai. Just as you are connected through your breathing with the air, so are you connected through your head organism, the lower head organism, with the third Hierarchy. The outer lobes of the brain, consisting of gray matter, only and solely belong to the earth. What is beneath (the white matter) is connected with the third Hierarchy, Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai.
Now let us descend into the region, psychologically speaking, of feeling; corporeally speaking, of the rhythmic organism, out of which the dreams of our feeling life arise. There we do not at all possess ourselves as human beings; there we are connected with what constitutes the second Hierarchy — the spiritual beings who do not incarnate in any kind of earthly body, but who remain in the spiritual world. They, however, send unceasingly their currents, their impulses, that which streams from them as forces, into the rhythmic organism of the human being. Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes — these are the beings whom we bear within our breast.
Just as we bear our human ego only in the outer lobes of our brain, so do we bear the Angeloi and Archangeloi, directly beneath this region, but still within the head organism. That is the scene of their earthly activities; there the starting-points of their activity are to be found.
In our breast we bear the second Hierarchy — Exusiai, and so forth; there in our breast are the starting-points of their activity. And if we now descend into the sphere of our motor organism, if we enter our movement organism, then in this sphere the beings of the first Hierarchy are active — Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones.
The transmuted food-stuffs, the food-stuffs we have eaten, circulate in our limbs, undergo there a process which is a living combustion process. For, if we take just a single step, there arises in us a living process of combustion, a burning up of that which was outside us. We are connected with it. Through our limb and metabolic organism, we are connected as human beings with the lowest, and yet it is precisely through the limb organism that we are connected with the highest. With the first Hierarchy, with the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, we are connected by that which permeates us with spirit. Now the great question arises — it may sound trivial in that I clothe it in earthly words, but there is nothing else I can do — the question arises: With what are they occupied — these beings of the three successive Hierarchies, while they are among us — with what do they occupy themselves?
The third Hierarchy — Angeloi, Archangeloi, and so forth — concerns itself with that which has its physical organism in the head; this Hierarchy occupies itself with our thinking. Were it not concerned with our thinking, with that which takes place in our head, we would have no memory in ordinary earth life. The beings of this Hierarchy retain in us the impulses which we receive with our perceptions. They underlie the activity which manifests itself in our recollection, manifests itself in memory. They lead us through our earth life within this, our first unconscious region.
Now let us proceed to the beings of the second Hierarchy — Exusiai, and so forth. They are the beings we encounter when we have passed through the gate of death, in the life between death and a new birth. There we encounter the souls of the departed human beings who lived with us on earth; but we encounter there, above all, the spiritual beings of this second Hierarchy also, it is true, those of the third Hierarchy, but the second Hierarchy is more important. We work with them during the time between death and a new birth upon all that we have felt in our earth life, all that we have transplanted into our organism. In union with these beings of the second Hierarchy, we elaborate our next earth life.
When we stand here on the earth, we have the feeling that the spiritual beings of the divine world are in us. When we are there beyond in the sphere between death and a new birth, we have the reverse thought. The Angeloi, Archangeloi and so forth, who guide us through our earth life in the manner indicated, live on the same plane with us, so to speak, after our death. Directly underneath are the beings of the second Hierarchy. With them we work on the forming, the shaping, of our inner karma. And all that I told you yesterday about the karma of health and disease we elaborate with these beings, the beings of the second Hierarchy.
And if we look still deeper in the time between death and a new birth, that is, if we, as it were, look through the beings of the second Hierarchy, then below we discover the beings of the first Hierarchy, Cherubim, Seraphim, and Thrones. As earthly human beings, we seek the highest Gods above us. We seek as human beings between death and a new birth in the profoundest depths below us for the highest Divinity attainable by us. And while we are working with the beings of the second Hierarchy, dab- orating our inner karma between death and a new birth, that inner karma which afterwards appears reflected in the healthy or diseased constitution of our next earth life, while we are engaged in this work, while we work with ourselves and with other human beings upon the bodies which will then appear in our next earth life, the beings of the first Hierarchy are occupied below in a peculiar way. We behold that. They stand within a certain necessity in regard to their activity, in regard to a part, a small part, of their activity. They must imitate — for they are the creators of the earthly — that which the human being has molded during his earth life but imitate it in a quite definite way.
Think of the following: In his will, the human being performs certain deeds on earth. The will belongs to the first Hierarchy. Be these deeds good or bad, wise or foolish, the beings of the first Hierarchy — Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones — have to mold the counterparts of these deeds in their own sphere.
You know, my dear friends, we live together. No matter, whether the things we do together are good or evil, for all that is good, for all that is evil, the beings of the first Hierarchy must shape the corresponding counterparts. Among the first Hierarchy all things are judged, but also shaped and fashioned. While we work on our inner karma with the second Hierarchy and with the departed human souls, we behold between death and a new birth what Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones have experienced through our earthly deeds.
Indeed, my dear friends, here upon earth the blue sky with its cloud formations and sunshine arches overhead, and at night, as the starry heavens, it vaults above us. Between death and a new birth, the activity of the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones vaults beneath us. And we gaze down upon these Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones just as we here look up to the clouds, to the blue heaven, to the star-strewn heaven. Beneath us we behold the heavens formed of the activity of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. But what kind of activity is it? While we live between death and a new birth, we behold the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones performing the activity which results as the just and compensating activity from our own deeds on earth — our own and the earthly deeds lived through with other human beings. The Gods are obliged to exercise the compensating activity, and we behold it as our heavens which are now beneath us. In the deeds of the Gods we behold the consequences of our earthly deeds, whether good or bad, wise or foolish. And by looking downward we relate ourselves, between death and a new birth, to the reflection of our deeds in the same way as in earthly life we relate ourselves to the vaulting heaven above us.
We carry our inner karma into our inner organism. We bring it back with us onto the earth as our faculties and talents, our genius and our stupidity. What the Gods fashion there beneath us, what they must experience in consequence of our earth lives, confronts us in our next earth life as the facts of destiny which come to meet us from without. We may say that what we pass through to which we are asleep carries us into our destiny in our earth life. But in this lives what the Gods in question, those of the first Hierarchy, had to experience as the consequences of our deeds in their domain during the time between our death and a new birth.
One always feels the need of expressing such things in pictures. Let us imagine ourselves standing somewhere in the physical world. The sky is overcast; we behold the clouded sky. Soon thereafter, a rain begins to trickle down; the rain is falling. What previously hovered above us we now see on the dripping fields, on the dripping trees. If we look back, with the eye of the initiate, from human life into the time we passed through between our last death and our last birth, we then see therein, first of all, the forming of divine deeds, the consequences of our own deeds in our last earth life. We then see how this spiritually rains down and becomes our destiny.
If I meet a human being who has significance for me in earth life, who has a determining influence upon my destiny, what occurs with (his meeting of the other human being has been previously experienced by the Gods as a result of what I have had in common with him in a former earl h life. If I am transferred during my earth life to some locality important to me or placed in some important calling, all that comes to me thus as outer destiny is a likeness of what the Gods have experienced — Gods of the first Hierarchy — as a consequence of my former earth life, during the time when I was myself between death and a new birth.
Indeed, if you think abstractly, then you think: “There we have the former earth lives; the deeds of the former earth lives work across into the present. Previously they were causes; now they are effects.” With this we cannot think very far; we have actually little more than words when we make this statement. But behind what we thus describe as the law of karma lie the deeds of the Gods, experiences of the Gods; and behind all that lie the other facts.
If we human beings approach our destiny only through feeling, then we look up, according to our faith, either to the Gods or to some Providence, upon which we feel the course of our earth life depending. But the Gods — those whom we know as the beings of the first Hierarchy, Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones — have, as it were, a reverse religious confession. They feel their necessity lies with men on earth whose creators they arc. The aberrations human beings suffer, and the progress they enjoy, must be equalized by the Gods. And what the Gods prepare for us as our destiny in a subsequent life they have already lived through before us.
These truths must be found again through Anthroposophy. Out of a consciousness not fully developed, they were perceived by mankind in an erstwhile instinctive clairvoyance. The ancient wisdom contained such truths. Then only a dim feeling about them remained. In much that meets us in the spiritual life of mankind, there is still a dim feeling for these things. You need only remember the verse by Angelus Silesius which you will also find quoted elsewhere in my writings. To a narrow religious understanding it sounds like an impertinence:
Without me, God could not a moment live at most.
Came I to naught, must He from need give up the ghost.
Ohn' mich könnt' Gott ein Nu nicht leben.
Würd' ich zunicht, müsst' er vor Not den Geist aufgeben.
Angelus Silesius went over to Roman Catholicism and as a Catholic wrote such verses. To him it was still clear that the Gods are dependent on the world, just as the world is dependent on the Gods, that this dependence is something mutual, and that the Gods must direct their life according to the life of human beings. But the divine life acts creatively and has its effect in turn in the destiny of human beings. Angelus Silesius, dimly feeling, but not knowing the exact truth, said:
Without me, God could not a moment live at most.
Came I to naught, must He from need give up the ghost.
World and Godhead depend on one another and work into one another. Today we have seen this interactivity in the example of human destiny, of karma.